Ice Fishing Opens at New Mexico’s Eagle Nest Lake
Eagle Nest, NM – Eagle Nest Lake opened to ice fishing and unlimited take of northern pike Friday, Dec. 30, and the Polar Bears will welcome the New Year with a splash in the frigid waters Sunday, Jan. 1, the Department of Game and Fish and the State Parks Division announced.
Recent cold weather has increased the ice depth on most areas of the lake – safe enough for foot traffic only. Off-highway vehicles, snowmobiles or other vehicles are prohibited on the lake at this time. Anglers are advised to stay away from pressure ridges or areas of open water. Ice conditions will be closely monitored and the lake could close to ice fishing if conditions deteriorate.
The State Parks Division has a formal procedure for checking the depth of ice. The ice thickness is measured starting at the shoreline and progressing out over the lake. When the ice is considered safe – at least nine inches thick — the lake is opened to ice fishing. Park staff continually makes visual checks of the ice looking for cracks, water on top of the ice and open water, all signs that the ice may not be safe for anglers.
The State Parks Division and the Department of Game and Fish jointly manage Eagle Nest Lake and surroundings via a joint powers agreement. According to criteria established by both agencies, Eagle Nest Lake State Park staff report the ice conditions to the Department of Game and Fish, which has the authority to open or close the lake to ice fishing. State Parks assists with the on-the-ground posting and enforcement of the ice-fishing determinations. In addition, State Park managers and superintendents have the authority, by regulation, to close or restrict access to areas of parks, as well as to restrict, limit or prohibit activities such as ice fishing as conditions require. Such actions are taken in the interest of public safety and resource protection.
UNLIMITED TAKE ON PIKE
In a recent move by the State Game Commission, regulations were changed to allow for unlimited take of northern pike from Eagle Nest Lake to address the aggressive species’ threat to the lake’s trout and salmon fishery. The new rule removed the daily harvest and possession limits for pike, made it unlawful to release a live pike back into the lake, and removed northern pike from the waste-of-game fish protection.
Northern pike were illegally stocked in Eagle Nest Lake. Recent surveys have indicated populations of the predatory fish have increased substantially and include four-year age classes with fish ranging in size from 12 to 30 inches. Northern pike have been known to destroy salmonid fisheries throughout North America.
POLAR BEAR PLUNGE
Visitors with cold intentions are invited to take the Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday, Jan. 1 at Eagle Nest Lake State Park Visitor Center. The fourth annual event is expected to draw several participants celebrating the New Year with a splash in the icy lake waters. Registration to participate in the chilling event begins at 9 a.m. Day-use fees of $5 per motor vehicle will be required.
For more information and current updates about ice conditions, please contact Eagle Nest Lake State Park, (575) 377-1594, for questions about fishing in northeastern New Mexico, call the Department of Game and Fish in Raton, (575) 445-2311, or for information about the Polar Bear Plunge, please contact Eric Hoffman at [email protected] or call (575) 377-1701. Information also is available on the Department of Game and Fish or New Mexico State Parks respective websites, www.wildlife.state.nm.us and www.nmparks.com.